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The Christian General


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China's warlord era, although a period marked by disunion and factionalism, and which most people including myself view with disdain, had an array of colorful personalities. One of them was 馮玉祥.

Known as the Christian General, Feng converted to Christianity as a Methodist in 1914 (the same denomination of Soong Meiling). He was the son of an officer in the Qing Imperial Army and joined Yuan Shikai's Republican army after the founding of the republic in 1911. When Yuan's government fell, Feng's career as a warlord began as governor-general of Henan province.

Many of us who saw The Last Emperor remember the scene of Chinese troops marching into the Forbidden City while Puyi and his two wives were playing tennis, and forcing him to leave the City within one hour. Those troops were Feng's troops.

Feng had a unique, albeit eccentric personality. He was reputed to have baptized his troops with fire hoses. He was also socialist-leaning and his Christian morals made him ban gambling, smoking, and drinking among his men. There was an incident when Feng, who disliked showiness and ostentation, saw a general complete a spacious residence. To show his disdain of the general's lavishness, he constructed a mud hut across the street and put a sign on the hut with the words "Feng's Palace". Feng once even graced the cover of Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/archive/covers/0,16641,1101280702,00.html

Mr. Feng switched sides often, supporting Chiang Kai-shek at one time and fighting against him at another. He was extremely critical of Chiang's refusal to fight against the Japanese in the early 1930's. However when the Sino-Japanese war began in 1937, Feng supported the Kuomintang government.

After World War 2, he travelled to the United States and openly criticized American support of the KMT regime. Feng died in a mysterious fire abroad a Russian ship en route to Odessa. His remains were returned to China and he was buried with honors in 1953.

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